What will families talk about before and after the turkey is carved on Thanksgiving? Will there be peaceful conversations regarding the state of America after the election, or will a drumstick end up in grandma’s lap after the gravy spills on the floor?
It’s troubling to think about the massive drama many could face when family members gather just weeks after the election. I’m willing to bet a drumstick and two pieces of sweet potato pie on fights involving a rigged election followed by suggestions that America will never be great again.
It doesn’t matter, as I write this, if Trump beats Clinton or Cooper flushes McCrory. Prepare for the disruption of the meal dedicated to celebrating family, nation and football. Things get heated when Democrats sit down with Republicans to discuss the state of America’s disunion.
Steven Petrow, civilities columnist for the Washington Post, says he’s deeply worried about how we will come back together after the election.
“Some Trump supporters are talking about ‘revolution’ and this attitude is only strengthened by Trump’s continuing claim that the election is ‘rigged,’” Petrow said. “At the same time, I’m also concerned about how a new administration addresses the anger, income inequality, and racism voiced by so many Americans in recent months.”
Petrow’s most recent column addresses the verbal and physical threats by pro-Clinton LGBT folks against pro-Trump gay people.
“Name-calling and alleged death threats by the Dems are counterproductive to changing minds and votes,” Petrow said. “Instead, I think they need to reach out with their personal stories that speak to the heart. Story-telling connects us – as human beings, one to another.”
Marry Miller, president of the NC Newsroom Cooperative, is the organizer of a post-election discussion on civility. The conversation, planned for Nov. 15 at the American Underground, will ponder ways to be civil when family members gather for Thanksgiving dinner.
Miller says the press plays a significant role in leading the public conversations regarding civility. Defining what that means is complicated by changing roles of the press.
“How do we do this in an age where common fact is ceasing to exist,” Miller said. “Our competition is no longer other news outlets, but those who create disinformation and present it as news or fact. Our competition is time – for our audiences want only the headline and instantly.”
Think of the press as one of the family members at the table on Thanksgiving. Let’s call her Newsome. Newsome has always been trusted to help family members understand important issues. Newsome is known for taking time to investigate the facts. She is uncompromised by the opinions of others at the table. Members of the family listen when she speaks. That changed during the past year.
Newsome’s role has changed due to dwindling support. She doesn’t have the time to commit to specific topics because she’s the only person left to consider complicated issues. Not to mention the influence of other family members. A few created a satire blog that makes fun of the news. Others bring their bias to the story and distort the facts.
Newsome seeks to elevate the conversation beyond the yelling at the table. She’s told she can’t be trusted. She begs members of the family to consider the facts. They tell her the facts don’t matter. She’s told, like everyone else at the table, she is biased. No one can be trusted.
The role of the press as the facilitator of civil dialogue is tarnished by a lack of trust.
“The election will be over, but where goes all this surging emotion?” Miller said. “There is no way out of this election without a significant portion of our nation feeling offended, slighted, anger and despair.”
What’s next after the election?
There’s a meal with a turkey, dressing and a bunch of other side dishes. We’ll give thanks for the people in the room and the things we have in common. Some will pray. Others will share stories.
We’ll give thanks for the family at the table. Maybe then we’ll remember that we’re not family because of what we believe. We’re family because of who we are beyond the things we believe.
Pass the gravy.
Carl Kenney, co-executive producer of “God of the Oppressed,” an upcoming documentary that explores black liberation theology, lives in Durham. You can reach him at Revcwkii@hotmail.com